The coronavirus pandemic has put public health at the forefront of most nations’ policies and pointed out some grave shortcomings of public health systems around the world. To be able to handle a sudden influx of patients, hospitals have had to shift their priorities and refocus their practices. In many cases, not enough beds or ventilators meant losing patients, who, with enough resources, could have been saved.
As the virus travels between urban and rural areas, healthcare professionals face the unique challenges presented by the difference in infrastructure between the two areas. Long the foundation of rural healthcare, community hospitals have proven essential in dealing with the pandemic.
But, community hospitals don’t just mean extra hospital beds in underserviced rural communities. Beyond the scope of COVID-19, community hospitals are an essential part of the communities they occupy, providing necessary healthcare facilities, medical professionals, and employment opportunities to the local community. Below is a discussion of how people benefit from a community hospital.
What Is A Community Hospital?
A community hospital is any hospital that has a defined geographical area, which is generally not included in the boundaries of a metropolitan hospital. Community hospitals have evolved over time to become an assortment of independent entities that present a major challenge to any effort to classify, define, or categorize them.
In contrast to large urban or academic hospitals, community hospitals are smaller, nonfederal hospitals that typically serve patients locally. Community hospitals aren’t teaching hospitals and may not have the resources or facilities of larger hospitals, but still provide essential care. Community hospitals are also distinct in that they’re run by local leaders and fully integrated into the local communities. In addition to emergency treatment and care options, community hospitals often offer a focus on prevention and may be involved in community public health efforts.
Engage The Community
A quality community hospital, such as Idaho Falls Community Hospital, will provide a range of healthcare options, including but not limited to the following:
- Emergency care
- Intensive care
- Kidney, heart, and vascular care
- Back and spinal care
- Cancer care
In addition to providing services in case of emergency, community hospitals provide vital services for those living with long-term illnesses, such as diabetes or cancer. They’ll also provide routine but essential processes for patients, like screenings and dialysis.
Similarly, community hospitals may engage with the local community through public health efforts and education. Physicians may visit local schools to help students learn about how to live a healthier lifestyle, or they may organize campaigns to tackle pervasive local health issues, like obesity or heart disease. Local hospitals might be behind programs to improve the cafeteria food that students eat and prevent childhood obesity. They may also work with local nursing homes to improve care and reduce hospital readmissions.
Community hospitals are responsible for the overall health of the communities, not just the health of their patients, so care will extend far beyond the limits of the hospital bed.
Lastly, remember that community hospitals are locally run. This means that they’re uniquely equipped to address the larger needs of communities. By engaging communities in the decision-making process, these hospitals have the ability to meet or exceed the needs of the people they’re serving.
Patients, their families, and their respective communities are able to determine how community hospitals should be organized, what services they ought to provide, and how they will serve them. Ultimately, community involvement can provide the ultimate sense of trust between patients, community members, and healthcare providers.
Servicing Rural Communities
Medical care resources tend to be unevenly distributed between urban and rural areas, with citizens living in isolated areas less likely to have access to the proper facilities in case of emergency. Considering how much of the rural population is made up of senior citizens, it can be pretty clear how necessary it is to have the right facilities even in seemingly remote areas.
Historically, community hospitals have been especially beneficial in rural areas that might not otherwise have access to proper healthcare facilities. They commonly provide equipment and expertise to local nursing homes and extended care facilities, and may even engage in home visits for patients with mobility issues or those living in relatively isolated rural areas.
While discrepancies in funding have put many rural and community hospitals at risk of closing, the Commmunity Hospital Corporation recently launched a nonprofit effort, the Rural & Community Healthcare Collaborative (RCHC), to raise funds to support community and rural hospitals nationwide. This effort will help community hospitals provide essential care to otherwise underprivileged communities throughout the nation. Community hospitals remain the powerhouses of public health in rural areas, so the continued health of citizens living outside of urban areas depends on the continued functioning of the community hospital model.
Provide Employment Opportunities
Possibly, the greatest challenge that community hospitals face is attracting medical professionals from other areas. Medical staff shortages have been a frequent issue around the country, and has often attracted medical health professionals from abroad. That being said, many community hospitals work hard to maintain a good relationship with nearby medical schools to ensure a steady flow of reputable, talented physicians into their system. But, they also present a unique opportunity for individuals in the communities they serve.
A community hospital is a major boost to the local economy. Not only does it encourage local students to become healthcare professionals and return to their community to do good, it also provides a wide variety of employment opportunities, from sanitation to administration and to everything in between.
Communities hosting hospitals can benefit from this unique source of employment opportunities, along with the revenue that comes with patient care. Especially in more remote areas, patients may come from some distance away, making the town that hosts the community hospital a kind of local hub. Similarly, a community hospital will maintain connections with local businesses, relying on them for services and supplies, which, in turn, brings revenue to these businesses. Community hospitals may even help provide scholarships and other funding to increase the number of local students pursuing education in the medical field in order to increase the talent pool in the community.
Patient Aligned Care
Patients, in many cases, prefer to go to the hospital they know and trust. They want to build a relationship with the nurses, doctors, or allied health professionals who work with them on a daily basis, not simply be another patient or a nameless number. If the hospital staff is not familiar with the needs, history, and personality of the patient, this can be a potential obstacle for patients in need of specialized medical care.
While larger hospitals have better access to a pool of qualified medical professionals, community hospitals excel at personalized care because of their small size. Chances are the cardiologist on staff knows the oncologist, and so forth, meaning that it’s much easier for physicians to communicate and coordinate patient care at a tightly-knit community hospital than at a larger hospital, wherein physicians are only loosely aligned.
Prospective patients also have some connection to the hospital, well before they spend any time there as patients. They may have had a family member treated at the same hospital, so they may be familiar with the hospital’s staff and facilities. With a community hospital, the patient has the opportunity to get information on what services and medical procedures are offered at the facility, as well as to meet with members of the staff to get any questions answered.
Community hospitals tend to focus more on long-term, preventative healthcare than simply on treatment. This means that they have plenty of experience handling long-term health conditions. With a community hospital, you won’t feel like you’re put on an assembly line to the door as soon as you get in. Rather, physicians at community hospitals aim to provide regular, personalized, and effective care to allow patients to live comfortably with their conditions. It’s more common for patients and physicians to know each other well, and this human connection goes a long way to ensure more humane care in the long run.
Lastly, because a community hospital is tasked with the health of the local population, its goal is to prevent hospital readmissions. To do this, they often work on providing patients healthier alternatives to potentially damaging habits. Community hospital physicians want to provide medical care that doesn’t stop at the doors of the hospital, so they actively work with patients to help them improve their lifestyle and, consequently, their health.
Small Size Equals Responsive Innovation
A smaller size means that community hospitals can experiment with new models of patient care and payment more freely than larger hospitals. This way, community hospitals are often the testing ground for cutting-edge policies that, once proven effective, spread to larger hospital systems.
On the flip side, while community hospitals may seem like they have fewer resources, they very often have a relationship with larger hospitals so that, if the need arises, they can exchange patients, physicians, and resources to be able to provide the best care possible. Even if they’re not equipped to handle a certain case, they’ll have a connection to someone who does. Patient care doesn’t begin or end at a community hospital, but it provides a local entry point that ensures that everyone gets the care they need
A Convenient Location And Essential Resources
Community hospitals are often accessible, centrally located, and well-connected to other, complementary healthcare facilities. Their aim, after all, is to address patients’ needs, have them get back to their daily lives as quickly as possible, and to keep patients from running the risk of readmission.
Many communities have a local nursing facility or public health center in close proximity to the community hospital. A good example is the North Vancouver Health Centre, which provides quality comprehensive healthcare services to families living in the area. During the coronavirus pandemic, the community hospital may also be an important hub for testing, care facilities, and public health education campaigns to stop the spread of the disease.
Passing The Savings On The Patients
The most obvious benefit of community hospitals is the cost savings. When you consider that many community hospitals spend about 30% less per resident than hospitals in metropolitan areas, it’s clear why the costs are so much lower in such places. They don’t have to keep up large expenditures for their facilities, non-essential technologies, or research, as in academic or teaching hospitals. Instead, community hospitals often work with local leaders to determine costs of healthcare that will be accessible to local people. Similarly, physicians at community hospitals will spend more time there, rather than working at out-patient clinics. This saves hospitals plenty on transportation, savings that are, then, directly passed on to patients.
The Community Hospital Advantage
Individuals unfamiliar with community hospitals may think of hospitals as generally large, research-based institutions, like the kinds seen on TV, wherein drama between doctors takes the front seat and patients move through the facility as if on an assembly line.
The community hospital model presents a number of advantages over larger hospital systems. Not only does the smaller size allow for greater freedom for innovation and a closer doctor-patient relationship, it also means a greater capacity for communication between departments and a lower cost for patients. Plus, the collaborative relationship between local government and community hospitals means public health engagement on a wide scale, improving the lives of all members of the community instead of just those of patients in hospital beds.
As more people are becoming concerned about providing more effective and efficient healthcare to those in need, community healthcare facilities are being developed and improved. These facilities allow the communities to have a voice when it comes to how they choose their healthcare providers, and can help establish communities as regional economic and medical hubs.
As you may have observed from the discussion above, community hospitals are quite underrated in the sense that not a lot of people realize how essential they are. Hopefully, this article has helped you become more knowledgeable about community hospitals and how they can benefit people.